Monday, March 17, 2014

NYT 3:16 (pannonica) 
LAT 3:28 (pannonica) 
BEQ 5:03 (Amy) 
CS 5:56 (Dave) 

John Lieb’s New York Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • 3/17/14 • Mon • Lieb • 3 17 14 • solution

NYT • 3/17/14 • Mon • Lieb • 3 17 14 • solution

To start the week we have a vowel progression theme, with the unusual and welcome distinction of including the sometime vowel y. Each sequential vowel appears as the second letter of the theme answer, ensconced between a G and an M.

  • GAME WARDEN [Poacher's nemesis] 18a.
  • GEM STATE [Idaho's nickname] 23a.
  • GIMME FIVE [Request for some skin] 35a.
  • GOMER PYLE [Mayberry resident who became a Marine] 41a.
  • GUMBALLS [Circular candy in a vending machine] 49a. Would have preferred ‘spherical.’
  • GYMNASTICS [Sport that includes the pommel horse and parallel bars] 58a.

Four hard Gs, two soft. Five two-word answers, one single-word. One some might say gratuitous plural, or at least a plural of convenience. So, if we’re being hardnosed about theme consistency it could be considered a bit shy of the mark.

What struck me most during the solve, however, was the amount of words I see almost exclusively in crosswords. The sort of fill you don’t want in a supposedly newbie-friendly Monday offering. Talking about John Hersey’s “A Bell for ADANO,” about swabby SMEE, about Burma’s U NU, and about AERIE. Borderline entries for various solvers might include: Dies IRAE, NILS Lofgren, ESAU, A-TEST, -IDE, HEXA-, RPI, Bach’s Mass IN B Minor, and … well, you get the idea. There’s just too much of this stuff for an early-week crossword.

On the brighter side:

  • 61a ["Assuming that's true …"] IF SO crossing 53d ["Assuming it's true …," informally] S’POSE. Good way to compensate for a blah partial.
  • 35d [Fellas] GUYS, 49d [False front] GUISE. See also, 10a [Old Russian autocrat] TSAR, 45a [Old what's-__-name] HIS, 50d ["I give up!"] UNCLE, 14a [Lothario's look] LEER, and the more or less gender-neutral LUSTY, here clued as [Robust] (52d). No, not 62a.
  • On the other hand, we’ve got 42d ["The Mary Tyler Moore Show" spinoff] RHODA, 48d [One minding the baby] NANNY, and, well that’s all.
  • Nice longdowns in DRESS CODE and FANTASIES, SEDUCTIVE, and JIM PALMER, clued as [Orioles Hall-of-Fame pitcher who modeled Jockey underwear]. I believe these were intentionally clued to be subtly subthematic.
  • For 6d, with –––IT place, I reasonably thought [Characteristic] was HABIT before I saw it was TRAIT. HABITUAL would have been a better conceptual fit according to that misinterpretation.

Ambitious five-entry six-entry theme with four nine-letter non-theme answers, but at the expense of elementary fill quality. Ends up being an average crossword.

Charlie Riley’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 3/17/14 • Mon • Riley • solution

LAT • 3/17/14 • Mon • Riley • solution

New constructor with an ostensibly Irish surname débuting with a St Patrick’s day theme? Hm.

As 64-across ladles it out: [Hearty meal often made with mutton, and, in a way, what the ends of 16-, 24-, 37- and 54-Across comprise] IRISH STEW. Stew in this case having the metaphorical sense of a heterogeneous mixture.

  • 16a. [Tricky situation] HOT POTATO (Irish potato).
  • 24a. [Salon styling stuff] HAIR CREAM (Irish cream).
  • 37a. [Former NFLer with a season record 23 touchdown receptions] RANDY MOSS (Irish moss). Both aspects of this got some play in Friday’s NYT crossword, if we include Amy’s write-up and the comments.
  • 54a. [Flying socialite] JET-SETTER (Irish setter).

I must reiterate that these items and resultant stew are to be taken metaphorically. While one could conceivably cook up a meal with potatoes, cream, moss, and bird dog among the ingredients … I wouldn’t recommend it. Besides, one would probably run afoul of the law for incorporating that last.

Compromises in the fill, especially among the short stuff. Too many for a Monday with theme entries of modest length, despite there being five. I won’t list any, but rest assured they include generous portions a generous portion of (edit at 8:58am CDT) partials, abbrevs., and non-early-week-appropriate answers. Okay, I’ll highlight just one: 38d AARE.

The triple-seven stacks in the northeast and southwest—while not overly Scrabbly—help to thicken the consistency of the grid, providing tooth. The other two corners are similar, but—unusually for me—I found the cheater squares to be noticeable and disturbing. Perhaps it’s because they’re in prime spots: the very first and very last squares.

Typical no-nonsense Monday cluing keeps it safe for new solvers, but does nothing to counterbalance much less elevate beyond the aforementioned encumbering fill. More of a rock-in-the-stomach than a sticking-to-the-ribs experience.


Updated Monday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Duck Dynasty” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Today’s CS/WaPo celebrates St. Paddy’s Day with a tribute to ducks:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 03/17/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 03/17/14

  • [Like Mr. Magoo] clued BLIND AS A BAT – Ah, Jim Backus, we miss you! Anyway, I think a “duck blind” is what you hide behind when you are hunting ducks. Hunting is big up here in Vermont–we had to put signs all around our property this winter that deer hunting wasn’t allowed in our backyard. Us city folks would’ve assumed that would be the case even without the signs, but life is different here.
  • [Basic lunch] was SOUP AND SANDWICH – my ear wants an indefinite article before the latter half of that phrase; “Duck Soup” is a movie by the Marx Brothers.
  • [Reprimand] was CALL ON THE CARPET – a “duck call” is used when you are behind a “duck blind” to attract “sitting ducks.”
  • [Film for which Reese Witherspoon won the Best Actress Oscar] clued WALK THE LINE – a movie about Johnny Cash that I haven’t seen. A “duck walk” is something we do in our bootcamp class where you put your hands behind your head with your elbows out and kind of squat while you walk. Contrast the goose step.

Guess I’m wondering the connection between St. Patrick and ducks; I know he rid Ireland of snakes, but perhaps that made the native fowl so happy that they celebrate him as well. SMELLING UP for [Raising a stink in] seems like a partial to me, as I would expect that to always be followed up by “the place.” I’ve never heard of ROLLA, Mo., pop. < 20k as of the 2010 census. A bit high on the foreign short-stuff: ODEA, EIN and DE LA, but I guess there weren’t OODLES of them. CLAXON, or a [Loud horn] along with the opposing ADROIT and UNBALANCED balanced the scales in the puzzle’s favor.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ "Themeless Monday" answers, 3 17 14

BEQ “Themeless Monday” answers, 3 17 14

It’s noon, so let’s do this simply:

Top fill: Classic SPIDER PLANT, new-to-me CRINGE HUMOR (anyone got a good video clip to illustrate the style?), RUNS ON EMPTY (we’ve all been there), RAFAEL NADAL, STREET SENSE (full of boring bottom-row letters yet still lively), TRUE DAT, Tony Orbach’s dad’s role of LUMIERE, STAN LEE.

Least familiar: 59a. [Rock's Letters to ___] CLEO crossing 43d. [Deception], CHICANE. I know chicanery but not the archaic version of CHICANE. Letters to Cleo is an obscure (if you ask me) former band. Boston + ’90s rock = Brendan’s sweet spot, yes?

Most blah: EMALLS, TO LET.

Most painful: 36d. [It occurs in joints], GOUT. Been there, done that. Now it’s my husband’s turn. We are too young for this crap! Honorable mention: 1d. [Tool I've had to use too damn much this winter], ice SCRAPER. People of winter! Get yourself a gadget like this for next winter, a telescoping scraper/brush/squeegee combo.

3.75 stars.

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26 Responses to Monday, March 17, 2014

  1. Ethan says:

    Small correction to the NYT review: it’s actually a six-entry theme. I hope six theme entries doesn’t somehow become a Monday-Tuesday norm, but I actually wouldn’t mind if Will S. sent back every vowel progression theme from here on out saying, “if there’s no Y, it’s not exciting enough.”

    • pannonica says:

      Yes, of course. Despite specifically mentioning the extra entry, I reflexively thought of ‘just’ the five vowels. Thank you.

  2. JohnV says:

    Thought the SW of the CS puzzle was pretty tricky for a Monday, with 47D, esp and the AZARIA/AZELEA cross. Tough stuff, IMHO.

    • Evad says:

      Thanks for your comment, John. One thing I’ve noticed is that the themed CS/WaPo puzzles don’t follow the Monday through Saturday difficulty progression that the NYT does, so a Monday may be as difficult as a Saturday for them.

      • JohnV says:

        I have found in general that the CS/WaPost puzzles fall Monday/Tuesday NYT difficulty. Usually a quick, fun, tight solve for me.

  3. Gary R says:

    I enjoyed the NYT and thought it was about right for a Monday. Saw the vowel progression, but didn’t notice until I came here that the “M” was part of the theme.

    I didn’t think the fill was as inappropriate for a Monday as Pannonica did. There were several entries she lists as crosswordese that I think should be easily gettable for someone who has a reasonably well-rounded education and/or well-rounded interests.

    A Bell for Adano was a Pulitzer Prize winner and was standard lit class fare when I was in high school (though that’s a long time ago now).

    Smee is a pretty prominent character in a popular piece of children’s literature and children’s movie.

    Hexa- should be known or inferrable to someone who understands basic geometry.

    -ide is probably a bit more obscure, but I would guess that a lot of people have heard of hydrogen sulfide (I’m not familiar with the Godfather books or movies, so it took me a while to decide between -ite and -ide).

    Nils Lofgren is a pretty well-known guitarist – I’d think anyone with more than a passing interest in rock music would have heard the name.

    None of these is a “gimme,” depending on your background and interests, but I think they’re “reasonable,” especially since each has several fairly straightforward crosses.

    • Bencoe says:

      Your post illustrates the subjectivity of difficulty, since I thought FREDO was easier than much of what you listed. I picture Michael kissing him in Havana right before the Communists storm in–”I know it was you.” Poor John Cazale. A great actor who died before his time.
      What about UNU? That seems more than Monday hard for non regulars.

      • Gary R says:

        I agree about the matter of subjectivity – movie clues, for example, are often tough for me (especially directors) because I’m just not much of a movie person, but it’s part of popular culture, so I figure they’re fair.

        Have to agree with Pannonica on U Nu (and Irae and aerie, too).

      • pannonica says:

        Precisely why I was careful to lade in the qualifiers. “Borderline entries for various solvers might include:”

        As for ADANO and SMEE, I suspect that they might be lost in the mists of time for many solvers. Also, there are many Pulitzer, Nobel, and other prize-winning books and authors that have been essentially forgotten by the general public.

  4. Nick says:

    “Charlie Riley” is of course an anagram for “really Rich”.

    I certainly agree that AARE shouldn’t be on a Monday, but I found the longer, good fill much more noticeable. TBH I’ve been looking through the puzzle for so-called “inappropriate-early-week answers” and can’t find too much; RPS and IMF, maybe. I REALLY don’t think beginners are gonna care about NSA, ALDAS, or APEEP, etc. It’s a bit presumptuous to decide that these beginners automatically weren’t alive around the time of RCA or AES, either.

    And of course, this is the Los Angeles Times, so ORO is more excusable.

  5. Gareth says:

    I only just learnt IRISHMOSS last week and it’s already back! Two full name US sportspeople I’ve never heard of today. Just a passing remark.

  6. pannonica says:

    Telephone.

    • Bec says:

      thanx!

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Bec had submitted a request to delete the original question, since she’d figured it out, and I deleted it without looking to see whether it had already become part of a comment thread. The question was about MNO’s connection to “6.” (In case anyone wondered what the heck was going on here.)

  7. Bec says:

    “Nevermind” ( in my best Gilda ) voice. Just came to me and I am feeling a bit stupid!

  8. Byron says:

    Chicane is a great word. It’s the name for an S-shaped curve in a Le Mans style racecourse. The sense is an artificial obstacle to slow your pace. M-W lists the etymology from the French as meaning “to quibble, prevent justice.”

  9. Golfballman says:

    Its 10:05 where’s the freaking NYT?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I think it might be your system that’s at fault, because I haven’t heard of anyone else having problems. Try clearing your browser cache, quit and relaunch your browser, restart your computer, take a deep breath?

    • Margaret says:

      Are you KIDDING me, dude? You need to get a grip. Or better yet, start your own blog and stop being so rude here.

Comments are closed.